Patriots upset in bizarre home opener, Hernandez injured

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski trotted onto the field to attempt a 42-yard game winning field goal. Fans ran back into the stadium after thinking the game was surely over just minutes ago. After such a dismal and gloomy game, the Patriots miraculously found themselves on the verge of stealing victory from the Arizona Cardinals. Gostkowski lined up  the kick having already executed four field goals on the day. He missed.

The blown opportunity put the finishing touches on Tom Brady’s first ever loss in a home opener.

Cardinals backup running back Ryan Williams gave Brady and the Patriots one final hope after fumbling the ball with just over one minute left to play. Vince Wilfork recovered the fumble, and the New England offense took over already in field goal range. A 30-yard Danny Woodhead touchdown run was wiped out due to a questionable holding call on Rob Gronkowski. Brady and the offense proceeded to move the ball to the 24 to set Gostkowski up for the game winner but to no avail.

The Cardinals, having outplayed the Patriots all game, finally sealed the victory on the missed field goal. Quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 141 yards and a touchdown as he confidently led his team to a 20-18 win in Foxboro.

For the Patriots, the biggest loss of the day is not visible in the standings. Tight end Aaron Hernandez left the game in the first quarter after being assisted off the field and down the stairs by two trainers. The injury came while blocking for Julian Edelman. His ankle appeared to get trapped under the weight of Edelman being brought down on a tackle. Hernandez was listed as questionable to return and was seen using crutches after the game.

The Patriots offense faltered the rest of the day without the abilities of their versatile tight end. The offensive line struggled mightily to protect Brady as he was sacked four times on the day. Fresh off his first 100-yard game against Tennessee, running back Stevan Ridley ran for 71 yards on 18 carries. Most of his efforts came in the first three quarters before the Patriots turned to the passing game after going down 20-9. Brady threw for 316 yards and led a nice 82-yard touchdown drive before failing to convert on the two-point conversion.

Despite the late effort by Brady and the offense, the 11-point deficit was too much for the Patriots to overcome. The Cardinals set the tone for the day after opening up the game with a six minute, 13 play drive that led to a Jay Feely field goal. Brady’s first pass of the game was tipped and intercepted by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson. The Hernandez injury only added to the mood in Foxboro as the Patriots went down 6-0 after another Feely field goal.

Nothing seemed to be going the Patriots way all game. The sour feeling continued midway through the third quarter when Zoltan Mesko had his punt blocked. This setup the Cardinals for an easy two-yard touchdown pass by Kolb. Everything continued to go Arizona’s way on the very next drive. Kolb miraculously escaped a sack and found tight end Todd Heap along the sidelines for a 28-yard gain. The Cardinals gained an extra 15 yards after the Patriots were flagged for two personal foul penalties. The mood in Gillette seemed to permeate throughout the stadium as the Patriots could do nothing right.

The referees did not help the mood as they appeared clueless on a number of plays. Twice they even disagreed on whether a ball was caught or not. One ref ruled incomplete, while his teammate signaled for a completion. Despite the confusion, the referees made poor calls for both teams and did not decide the outcome of the game. The Patriots inability to do anything consistent on offense led to their demise.

The only bright side for New England was rookie defensive end Chandler Jones. He proved to be a force on the defensive side of the ball, single handedly causing the Cardinals problems. He man-handled Arizona tackle D’Anthony Batiste, getting by him three straight times to stop a run, cause a holding penalty, and force Kolb to throw the ball away on third down. The Cardinals adjusted as Jones was seen double teamed often for the rest of the game.

Wide receiver Wes Welker caught his 558th catch passing Troy Brown on the Patriots all time reception list. Despite this feat, Edelman appeared to be a larger part of the New England offense.

With only two games in the books, it is unclear which Patriots team is for real. Will they be the balanced, well-coached juggernaut from week one, or did this Patriots team show its true colors today against the Arizona Cardinals? Next week’s game against the Baltimore Ravens will be the measuring stick.

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Posted on September 16, 2012, in JO 514, Patriots and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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